Zionism: An Emotional State

Zionism: An Emotional State

Date: Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Time: 07:30pm - 

Location: Douglass Student Center, Trayes Hall, 100 George Street, New Brunswick, NJ 08901


The Ruth and Alvin Rockoff Annual Program


Derek Penslar, William Lee Frost Professor of Jewish History, Harvard University

Emotion lies at the heart of all national movements, and Zionism is no exception. For those who identify as Zionist, the word connotes liberation and redemption, uniqueness and vulnerability. For others, Zionism is a source of distaste if not disgust, and those who reject it are no less passionate than those who embrace it. The power of such emotions helps explain why a word originally associated with territorial aspiration has survived so many years after the establishment of the Israeli state.

Derek Penslar will discuss his new book, Zionism: An Emotional State, which explores how the Zionist movement originated from complex feelings that varied in volume, intensity, and durability across different regions and historical moments. The resulting portrait of Zionism reconfigures how we understand Jewish identity amid continuing debates on the role of nationalism in the modern world.

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Derek Penslar Headshot sqIn addition to his professorship at Harvard, Derek Penslar is Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History Emeritus at the University of Toronto and was the inaugural holder of the Stanley Lewis Chair in Modern Israel Studies at Oxford University. His most recent books are Zionism: An Emotional State (Rutgers University Press, 2023); Unacknowledged Kinships: Postcolonial Studies and the Historiography of Zionism (University of Chicago Press, 2023), coedited with Stefan Vogt and Arieh Saposnik; and Theodor Herzl: The Charismatic Leader (Yale University Press, 2020). He is currently writing a global history of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Penslar is a fellow of the American Society for Jewish Research and the Royal Society of Canada. He is also an honorary fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford.